Rome or Athens?

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Having never been to Italy before, I was looking forward to the pasta, tiramisu and panacotta yet also frustrated as my sense of taste had disappeared with a cold that was still hanging around.

Oh well, Rome is the Eternal City and there’s no way I was going to miss out on this trip – even though the cabin pressure in the aircraft made my head feel like it was going to implode (note to everyone:  really, flying with a cold is NOT a good idea – never mind the other passengers tut tutting and giving you daggers in case you infect them…think of YOUR head and how it feels like an elephant’s taken up residence on it – ears desperate to pop but can’t quite get there and eyes watering).

Such was the start of the trip for me to the Eternal City.

Oh, another warning:  be careful of these low budget airlines – specifically easyjet.  Easyjet = very good on the Athens to Rome flight ie: allowing my (tiny!) trolley bag into the cabin – also my friend’s rather larger trolley bag…hence we could just walk straight through upon arrival at the other side.

And thank God for that!  Another word of warning: Fiumicino airport (FCO).  OMG!!!!  What a DISASTER area!  Athens Venizelos airport is a DREAM: smooth entry/exit processes, baggage area not resembling a shack,  Arrivals (unlike FCO) with bigger space.


We get the train from FCO to the centre of town.

This is where we discover another strange thing about Rome: the underground system.  In most cities at least in Europe (London, Paris, Athens) there is the opportunity to change onto a different line at various stations:

Source: http://www.greeklandscapes.com/images/maps/athens-metro-map.jpg
Source: http://www.greeklandscapes.com/images/maps/athens-metro-map.jpg

Can you see this example of Athens metro (above) – only 3 main lines (blue, red and green) and various interchange points.  Now, Rome:

Source: http://www.rome.info/metro/
Source: http://www.rome.info/metro/

Forget the greenish line going out to FCO airport – there are only two lines and ONE INTERCHANGE POINT (Termini).  Can you imagine how busy this Termini station was?

But I am getting a little ahead of myself here – I haven’t been too positive so far about Rome and we are still on the train from the airport.

I notice how GREEN everything is and upon checking into our hotel (tiny room in an old, old building that is boiling hot) and then going about a city tour (there are various bus companies that operate the hop on/off tours and all seem pretty good), we commented on how much greener in general the city seemed – not just on the ride from FCO airport (which seemed stuck out in farmland), but also around the city).

Love the random courtyards
Love the random courtyards

The hotel was a bit of a laugh:

Now, do not be lulled into a false sense that the rooms are as big as depicted in their pictures – they are NOT, or at least, ours wasn’t.  Still, it was clean and also in a very, very central area.  Oh, you also get charged 2 euros ‘city tax’ per person per night and have to pay this upon check out.  It never gets pre-charged and don’t ask me why they charge it locally – they just do.

What’s the #1 hotel in Rome? Read reviews & find hotel deals on TripAdvisor!

I wanted a shower after we’d sort of settled ourselves.  But could I get the hairdryer to work?  Nope.

So, finding a plug that works in the corridor – topped off by the fact I have no shame – off I trot with a towel around me and start to dry my hair in the corridor.  Queue Luca, the nice man from Reception, to open one of the bedroom doors and see me, semi naked in the corridor.

“Is there a problem uh?” he asks.

Upshot is, he fixes the plug in the room (we just needed an adaptor plug) and marvel at how he seemed more embarrassed when my friend asked what his name was when she thanked him, rather than seeing a semi naked girl in the corridor of his hotel.

I should also point out that he didn’t actually say ‘eh?’ – it is my way of portraying to you that Italians have a really enduring of saying ‘eh’ or  ‘uh’ at the end of every sentence.

So ‘Are you OK?’ sounds like:

“Are you OKuh?”

Skipping quickly on – the Colosseum was beautiful and then we get to St Mark’s Square and the Vatican.

The QUEUES!  Luckily one of these bus tours includes tickets to go into the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel without the need to queue, otherwise the queue would LITERALLY have taken us about 6 hrs, I am NOT kidding.

St. Mark's Square
St. Mark’s Square

The Sistine Chapel was somewhat spoiled by the sheer amount of people and also the 2 guards – Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  They took it in turns…

1 = “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

2 = “No photo”

and visa versa.  Ironically, the only ones making any noise were actually THEM!

015

One thing I loved there was their hot chocolate…none of this watery rubbish – just LOOK at it:

Amazing hot chocolate
Amazing hot chocolate

This is the proper stuff!  You could stand a spoon up in it.  I think dipping a donut into it might also be a reason to celebrate!

Finally – the fountains.  I’ve never seen so many of them!  Again, here is one of my favourite’s:

020

Now the question:  Athens or Rome?


Well, Rome has many, MANY monuments, a lot of greenery and is no doubt a beautiful city – but I have to be a little biased when I say I still think Athens wins.  Here are some reasons why:

Metro system

Easy to use and SO much cleaner/less smelly (but it was raining like mad the day we used Rome’s one).

Friendliness of the locals

Despite the enduring ‘uh’ at the end of each sentence, Rome seemed to be ‘tourist weary’ and almost bordered on rude to tourists at times.

Airport

SO much more efficient than Rome FCO.  If I every fly easyjet again, I am flying it one way only out of Athens as the airport staff there are so much more relaxed.  FCO easyjet staff were AWFUL, I mean AWFUL.

Safety

Whilst I didn’t feel unsafe in Rome, I could sense that it had more crime.  My friend commented on this as all over even our small hotel were security cameras.

What about you? Where’s your favourite destination out of the two?

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Rome or Athens?

18 COMMENTS

  1. I personally liked Rome much better. I wasn’t very happy with being hounded by the numerous bums on the street asking for money or the pedlers following us around, insisting we buy their goods, in Athens. I also liked the fact that there were so many more monuments in Rome. I personally loved Italians, so sweet and friendly 🙂

    • So sorry to hear you felt that way about Athens, Medha. And referring to homeless people as ‘bums’ could be construed as quite insensitive. There are a lot more homeless people now in Greece than in the past due to the economic crisis and it has hit this country very hard.
      I remember also seeing a lot of homeless in Rome too – and there are many homeless in my home country, the UK.
      I do hope you get the opportunity to return to Athens and see the numerous monuments there are to see in this city, as well as archaeological tours, street art tours, gastronomy tours – the list is endless!
      Rome’s attractions were indeed beautiful…I think for me I find the Greek people, despite their hardship, incredibly willing to help and be friendly – but I think it depends on us as individuals too: If we aren’t open to accepting friendliness, then we won’t get it back to us.

  2. I haven’t been to either but if I had to choose, I’ll most probably choose Athens. I am in love with Greek Mythology and it would be so cool to visit Athens!

  3. I’m particularly drawn to Rome’s ancient history. But it delivers on lots of levels – that history, art, culture. I know what you’re thinking… Athen’s isn’t short on history.

    Rome’s so easy to explore – either on foot or via the metro.

    For a film nut like me it’s great to track down the locations of some of my favourite films. A gelato at the Spanish Steps with Audrey… A slice of Tom Hanks at the Pantheon… Three coins in the Trevi… Yep, it’s Rome for me.

    • There’s some really good suggestions there – thank you Helen. If I get to go back to Rome, I shall be sure to look out for these locations as I, too, am a film buff.
      I love Skopelos island in Greece as the scene for ‘Mamma Mia’, plus various places in the Mani region of Greece for the films with Ethan Hawke (‘Before Midnight’, ‘After Midnight’, etc) and also the Epidavrous Amphitheatre for various stage plays performed – Richard III with Kevin Spacey is one I remember seeing.
      But of course, these are all different locations around Greece, not specifically Athens. I think for me, I find the public transport system easier in Athens, plus the people are friendlier, as I stated in my post.

  4. I am glad I didn’t fly to Fiumicino but to Ciampino. And also had a better luck with queues, we waited only about an hour and a half. But we went there in January so maybe it was the reason 🙂 I have never been to Athens but wasn’t too impressed with Rome.

    • That’s interesting Veronika. Why weren’t you too impressed with Rome? I’d love to go back and try again, with fresher eyes – and maybe through the different airport this time!

  5. I have only been to Rome and I did love it, I had an amazing time, though yes there are lots of tourists. I did always manage to find terrible food!!! Athens I go to in 2 weeks and I can’t wait to visit. It’s a place I have always wanted to visit and it looks like its easy to get around with the metro system too. I managed to work out the rome one so the Athens one should be easy 🙂

    • I guess – to be fair – it’s possible to find terrible food in every city! I somehow managed to be like you though, it wasn’t easy to find the real authentic spots. I think next time I get the opportunity to visit, I will go on a gastronomy tour. I was a little wet behind the ears when I visited Rome. Oh, and I won’t fly easy jet again!
      I hope you like Athens. They do great street art tours if you’re into that kind of thing. There’s some great street art here – as well as history, obviously.

  6. I haven’t been to either but I am dying to go to both. The geeky girl in me who loves Greek Mythology would probably prefer Athens if I had to pick one. Hope I can visit both soon though

  7. I’d go for the hot chocolate alone Bex. I am not kidding. I really like hot chocolate. REAL hot chocolate. Do they really not allow photos there? I guess I get it from the preservation angle, and this being one of art’s most cherished sites. Still though, being shhhhsssssed gets old after a while. I am sure ample signage directs visitors in multiple languages. Or, maybe not LOL.

    Ryan

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